Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

All of us who worked with families in the area knew how water, the old docks and their histories were inextricably linked together. Real legacy would need to connect at a deep level to have any meaning. Thankfully, the noble Lord reassured me that we were not mad and agreed to put a team around us so that together we could produce what has become the first document proposing that the Games should come to east London. I keep the document as a memento.

I must declare an interest in all the above projects and explain why it has been necessary to bring them into being. Not only that, but I must come clean about the passion for east London that my colleagues and I share. We are not passive onlookers; we care greatly about the people who live there. Many of them are our friends and colleagues. We are committed to the area long-term.

We are at a historic moment. The next 100 years for east London will be defined by the decisions made in the next 12 months. A great deal is at stake for some of the poorest communities in this country. We worry about what we see taking place under what one very experienced developer calls the smoke and mirrors of the Olympic legacy. But to understand our concerns and appreciate what we mean by sustainable communities and legacy, we must go back nearly 25 years to the early days of my work.

One of the patrons of the Bromley by Bow Centre for 17 years was Lord Peyton of Yeovil, who on many difficult occasions gave us very practical support and advice. In the early days when we were struggling to dance with the dinosaur of government, he reminded me as the experienced parliamentarian he was that,

Those words of wisdom accurately described my experience over many years in east London as I watched endless regeneration schemes, NHS structures and the like come past our doors. When you stay in one place for a very long time you watch successive government programmes. Their effect on people’s lives is often quite different from the intention of the rhetoric that launched them.

I mentioned earlier some of the organisations that we helped grow in the Lower Lea Valley not to impress you but to remind us all that creating

17 Jan 2008 : Column 1425

sustainable communities is not about the macro but about the micro. It is about the devil in the detail of local relationships between people and organisations on the ground. It is not ultimately about structures, systems and processes but about individuals, relationships and friendships. It is about people before structures.

The enterprise economy in which we all now live, and which this Government are quite rightly so keen to promote, is all about the devil “under the trees”. That is where the fertile soil exists which is absolutely critical to growing a thriving economy and entrepreneurial culture in east London and to moving local residents away from historic state cultures of dependency to play an active and constructive role in co-creating a new place in east London. Only then will they feel any responsibility for its future.

It is this fertile ground under the trees in which Olympic legacy must be rooted. Many of us in east London are increasingly concerned that these crucial local details are still not understood by the more than 40 public sector agencies involved in the regeneration of the area. I am sure that many noble Lords are all too aware of the Public Accounts Committee’s recent critical report on the Thames Gateway, which describes in great detail the waste of money and human potential in this area. Real opportunities for deep and sustainable legacy in the Lower Lea Valley are being sliced away and lost.

These are complex matters, but to get a handle on them we must start not at the macro level but at the micro. There are new and effective ways of doing regeneration that are being pioneered by social and business entrepreneurs in the area but which are still not understood. As any successful businessman will tell us, you must first understand the micro—one shop, the building of one supermarket—in great detail before, step by step, you build a national chain. Building sustainable communities is an organic process and the soil is now ready in the Lower Lea Valley.

Noble Lords will be aware of the work of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, in chairing the inquiry into the tragic death of Victoria Climbié, which well illustrated that understanding one life and one experience in great detail can give important clues to the functioning or malfunctioning of complex public sector structures. Our own epiphany came through the death from cancer of a woman in Bromley-by-Bow named Jean Vialls in 1992. Her story has been well documented elsewhere. It led us to cut through the chaos of the local NHS at that time and to build our own health centre with our own GP and primary care team, embedded in a community setting that also addressed people’s housing, education and social needs as well as stimulating them to take responsibility for their own future, to get jobs and to develop their own small businesses.

Despite hosting visits from more than 17 government Ministers in recent years, with all the rhetoric which supports our work, it has not got any easier to bring about change in the face of government commissioning structures. Indeed, in

17 Jan 2008 : Column 1426

many ways it has become harder as we navigate the endless public bodies that have landed in our bit of the planet.

I articulate these realities not to carp or complain—such is life—but to draw attention to the fact that the next 12 months will, for good or bad, cast the die for the next 100 years in east London. What we see emerging, at its simplest, are two options: either we will build a new metropolitan district of London in the east, which we have called Water City—a vision now embraced by the main public sector bodies in their vision for the area—or we will end up with a giant housing estate which will look fine for the world’s visitors and their television cameras in 2012, much as Dagenham was full of aspiration when it was first built. But will today’s public sector bodies leave us with another Dagenham on our doorstep for future generations? If so, an historic opportunity will have been missed and east London will be destined to another 100 years of relative poverty and deprivation.

It is not clear today which of these it is going to be and, importantly, which of the alphabet soup of organisations has the authority to lead the process. The Olympic Delivery Authority seems to have given up on legacy. It has too much on its plate—I am sympathetic to that—and has passed the baton to the London Development Agency, but the LDA has no track record of creating excellent places for people to live and work. If it does not now engage seriously with colleagues on the ground then yet further opportunities for real legacy will be lost.

The over complex Olympic process has already lost many opportunities to build on local partners’ practical experience in the Lower Lea Valley. These are partners who will still be there in autumn 2012 when the show leaves town. Yet the Olympics still have the potential to act as a catalyst to lift the game on the £20 billion of development that will take place down the valley over the next 20 years. When you live and work in east London, you know that the Olympics are not the biggest show in town. They are, as one Newham councillor recently put it, only the third biggest regeneration scheme in Newham alone.

The Olympic stadium has become the focal point of the Olympic developments but this is really the least of the opportunities springing from the Olympics. Many other opportunities still remain if the ODA does not hide behind its 11-mile security fence and if it allows some small “threads of gold” to connect the inside of its project to the outside world in practical ways. This is not about yet more consultation but about involving successful local entrepreneurs in co-creating the future.

Spending £9 billion in the area will of course make a difference—don’t get me wrong, we welcome the investment—but the key questions are: are we investing the money well; will it make a sustainable difference; will it deliver the maximum added value to local communities; will it transform east London for the next 100 years; or will a great opportunity have been lost? If we grasp this opportunity then we as a nation may have something valuable to share with the International Olympic Committee—some practical

17 Jan 2008 : Column 1427

clues about how you do legacy in a way that does not leave us, as I have seen at Homebush in Sydney, with a large empty site; or in the position of West Heidelberg in Melbourne where the 1956 Olympics were held and where you can see the effect of getting these decisions wrong on a local community as long as 50 years later.

If we start to understand the devil in the detail of this more practical entrepreneurial and organic way of working which I have described, then we may well be able to produce new thinking about Olympic legacy which explores how you might justify putting projects of this scale into poorer countries in Africa or Asia precisely because the capital spend can be used to generate real legacy, real local sustainable communities and real change. I am fearful that the present approach to the London 2012 Olympics will fail to do this.

What then needs to happen to build a truly sustainable Olympic legacy in east London? I would humbly suggest as a neighbour across the road the following thoughts. There is an opportunity to use the Olympic process as a real catalyst for change in east London. The problem is that the regeneration structures in east London are a mess. Those of us who try to make them work in practical ways know how serious that mess is and how much energy and time are being wasted. The present structures are confusing potential private sector investors precisely at a time when we want them to commit to the area. There needs to be simplification and some agencies need to go.

The key players in my view are central government, the Mayor of London, local government, business entrepreneurs operating in the area and, so often forgotten, the social entrepreneurs and local communities that have a long-term stake in the area. It is surely not beyond our wit to create a simple, focused, business-like structure for east London regeneration that, first, recognises with honesty and humility that each of these key players has both strengths and weaknesses; secondly, recognises the legitimate rights, responsibilities and roles of each of these key players; and, thirdly, enables them to work together rather than against each other or in isolation.

A good start has been made in relation to the future of the Olympic Park itself through the setting up of the Olympic Park Regeneration Steering Group which now includes local government leaders as well as the Minister and the mayor. This approach can be applied to the bigger picture of regeneration in east London and deepened to include business and social entrepreneurs. I humbly suggest that at this critical hour in the life of east London, we now all focus on the needs and interests of the people who live there, that we stop playing games, stop jockeying for position and work together in a way that understands that faith in democracy itself depends on government’s ability to deliver real change on the ground in communities where people live and work.

Only then will sustainable communities be created in east London, the Water City vision achieved and an Olympic legacy delivered—a legacy that moves us beyond a past that has locked some of the poorest people in our society into dependency cultures which

17 Jan 2008 : Column 1428

have wasted so much of their creative human potential. The good news is that the Lower Lea Valley is not full of problems but is bursting with opportunity and is being held back by structures that understand too little of what is going on in the fertile soil under the trees. A worthwhile Olympic legacy is all to play for, but we must act soon or the moment will be lost. I beg to move for Papers.

11.54 am

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I am enormously grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, for giving us the opportunity to debate this extremely important topic. Perhaps I can reminisce for a moment. I well remember visiting—he probably does not remember—the Bromley by Bow Centre, probably at least a decade ago, and being enormously impressed by the work that he was doing in that area.

In thinking about the debate, I was surprised earlier this week to receive an e-mail from Visit London, an otherwise worthy organisation, with an attachment rather grandly called, “London 2016 News”. It concerned the preparations for the Olympics and I am slightly concerned that Visit London seems to have lost four years in the process. I am sure that all the arrangements for visitors will be ready in time for 2012 and not 2016. No doubt that was a mistake.

I start by making my usual declaration of non-interest in this subject. Some noble Lords may have noted that I do not display natural athleticism. I blame some of that on being expelled from my games department for lack of effort—“Harris is excused games for the rest of his school career”, at the age of about 12. None the less, I am one of those who is committed to the idea of bringing the Olympics to London. Indeed, I can claim even earlier dreams about bringing the Olympics to London in that I recall a dinner held at Elena’s L’Etoile in Charlotte Street in the mid-1990s when the British Olympic Association was first beginning to think about the possibility of seeking to bid for the Olympics in London. This was before we had a Mayor of London and we wondered whether the local authorities of London would be able to unite sufficiently to work towards that end. Perhaps rather rashly, on behalf of 32 London boroughs and the City, I gave the assurance that I thought it was possible and that the bid should be made.

I declare an interest as an adviser to the board of Transport for London. Clearly, the current investment programme in which Transport for London is engaged will help to deliver a transport legacy for east London—I hope well before 2012. There should be a new London overground network in time for the Games; we shall see the East London line extended south to Croydon and north through Hackney to connect with the North London line at Highbury and Islington. The area will also benefit from the Eurostar rail link; 50 per cent extra capacity on the Docklands Light Railway and an extended East London line connecting to an improved London overground network. There will be new walking and cycling routes, as well as extra capacity on the Jubilee line,

17 Jan 2008 : Column 1429

and that is before the arrival of Crossrail. There will also be the extension of the DLR to Stratford International which will be a further boost to regeneration in the Lower Lea Valley south of the Olympic site.

I also declare an interest as a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, which will face enormous operational challenges in managing the event itself and in preparing for it. Even in that context, where it is largely an immediate operational requirement, there will be a real legacy of benefit to the country. For example, there should be a new control centre which will enable the police to manage national policing operations in a way that has not been possible before. There will also be an enormous requirement for the training of officers all over the country for specialist duties which will be required as part of the Olympics and, again, that will have a lasting legacy benefit.

Above all, I hope that the Metropolitan Police and other forces will use the opportunity to build new types of relationships with local communities, something which I believe is possible as part of this process because every nationality in the world will be represented in London at the Games and it also likely that every nationality in the world is resident in this great city. Building links with those communities will be part of effectively policing the Games.

On the progress being made, I think the signs are encouraging. There will be a substantial legacy in housing and I hope we will see a legacy in other parts of the infrastructure. We shall certainly see a new urban park; and we are already seeing contracts let not just to companies in London but also to companies based around the country. That is all good news and it is all welcome.

However, I want to echo some of the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, about governance and whether the legacy is adequately protected. We have a tripartite arrangement on some of the decision-making, and that is before the Government are included—quadripartite, if that is a word, if the Government are included. There is also local governance, which has responsibility for ensuring that we deliver the greatest sporting festival the world has ever seen. I am confident that we will. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Coe, will tell us exactly why that will be the case. We have the ODA, which is responsible for delivering the physical buildings that are needed to make that happen. Separately, the LDA is required to sort out the legacy. The ODA is required to “have regard to” the importance of legacy. I am concerned that as the going gets tough—there will be times during the next four years when the going gets extremely tough—the legacy will be squeezed.

There is also the potential for shifting costs. I shall give an example although I do not believe that this will necessarily happen. It is possible that the ODA will shift costs on to LOCOG. For example, by investing less in physical and technical security, LOCOG could be required to engage more people during the event itself on day-to-day security. There is the potential for all sorts of problems. I really do wish that we had a more robust governance structure.

17 Jan 2008 : Column 1430

I am also concerned about some of the whingeing we hear about this project. On Tuesday of this week there was a debate in another place on the National Lottery. I single out the contributions of two Members of Parliament, not because they came out with particularly ludicrous comments or because they are poor representatives of their areas but because I was amazed by some of the nonsense that was said by people who do not really understand either London or the importance of this project for the nation. Adam Price, the Member of Parliament for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, complained that the poorest communities in the United Kingdom were having to finance the regeneration of London. Peter Wishart, the Member of Parliament for Perth and North Perthshire, talked about the traditional support for the disadvantaged, the dispossessed and the marginalised being lost. Of the 10 constituencies with the highest rate of unemployment, six are in London; of the top 50, 10 are in London; of the top 100, 21 are in London. Fifty constituencies—

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, if everyone—

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I am well aware of the point that my noble friend is going to make. I am on my final sentence, which I would probably have concluded had my noble friend not interrupted.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, if everyone overruns by two or three minutes, the Minister will be unable to reply.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, there are 50 constituencies in London with a higher rate of unemployment than Carmarthen. There are 56 with a higher rate of unemployment than Perth and North Perthshire. Given that London subsidises the rest of the country to the tune of £16 billion to £20 billion, those Members of Parliament should look at where the money is going and whether some of that money should be invested in London.

12.03 pm

Lord Coe: My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, on securing this timely debate. Having been so intimately involved in the Olympic project over the past two or three years, I can say that the noble Lord’s work has become very apparent to my teams, both in the London organising committee and in the Olympic Delivery Authority. I know that they would wish to join me in thanking the noble Lord for his groundbreaking work.

I shall endeavour to complete my words on time and to budget. First, I declare my interest as chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, an organisation charged with the staging of those Games. Once again I remind noble Lords that the organisation raises all its money from the private sector. The Olympic and Paralympic Games are two of the biggest sporting

17 Jan 2008 : Column 1431

events in the world. They provide a unique opportunity to demonstrate sporting excellence. However, as we made clear throughout the bidding process, and subsequently, they are also about so much more than that. At a fundamental level, the Games have the ability to drive agendas, inspire change and work as a catalyst for good in communities in east London and far more broadly.

That is the case not just during the Games, when the eyes of the world will be upon us, but also in delivering for the future that crucial legacy, of which the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, spoke so eloquently. That is why, although of course both the organising committee and the Olympic Delivery Authority have sport at the heart of the Games, sustainability underpins all our thinking.

This is not just a whim or an aspiration. Working with organisations as diverse as the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 and the World Wildlife Fund and in consultation with individuals, businesses, social entrepreneurs and communities around London and the country, we have committed ourselves from the initial planning stage to the concept of a one-planet Olympic Games.

“Sustainability” is one of those words which have become so frequently used in recent years that it is difficult to avoid the stigma of jargon. With London 2012, that is certainly not the case. It is a concept that underpins our vision and all the strategic objectives for a successful Games. The Olympic Board all signed up to the sustainability plan at the end of last year. We defined the term broadly and it set out the challenges and commitments for us to meet at all stages of the project in the five key themes of climate change, waste, biodiversity, inclusion and healthy living. Let me be quite clear in case there is the remotest impression in this House that the approach currently adopted by the organising committee is the norm in the delivery of an Olympic Games; it simply is not. No previous host city has ever developed such detailed work from the very outset of its planning.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page